Smithfield Police are alerting customers who used a fuel pump at a convenience store recently to check your financial card statements closely.
On Feb. 3rd,, a state inspector was conducting a random check on a fuel pump at the Star Market at 836 West Market Street and discovered a credit card skimming device inside a pump. The device is used by thieves to steal your financial card information.
According to Chad Parker, Measurement Section Manager with the NC Department of Agricultural Standards Division, which is in charge of testing and making sure fuel pumps are in compliance, 18 skimming devices were found on gasoline pumps in Johnston County in 2019. None were found in 2018. Two were found in 2017.
Parker said the Star Market in Smithfield and DY Express on JR Road in Selma accounted for 11 of the 18 skimmer devices found last year, or 61% of all the devices locating in Johnston County. Parker says he doesn’t know why thieves are repeatedly targeting the two convenience stores.
So far in 2020, three skimmer devices have been found across North Carolina, Parker said. One of the three devices was the device found last week at the Star Market in Smithfield.
”For the average customer, there is no way of knowing there is a skimmer inside a pump. It is usually placed on the inside between the card reader and the computer board. When the customer swipes their card, it captures that information and either holds or sends that info to the criminal,” Parker told JoCoReport.
“So how do you protect yourself? Well the easiest way is not use a card. I know that isn’t really practical. I use my card at the pump. One thing that I always do is run the card as a credit transaction. That way the pump will ask for your zip code instead of your pin number. I would much rather give a criminal my zip code instead of my pin number,” Parker added.
“A few things that stores can do to protect their customers are changing over to the new chip reader system. The chip scrambles your information and then sends it along its path. Scrambled data is no good to most criminals. They are looking for something quick and easy. On that same note, stores can change the locks on their pump doors. Many stores are already doing this. Pumps come with a default manufacture key that can be found online rather easy. This is how most criminals are able to enter pumps. If that criminal can’t open your pump, he’s probably going to move on to the next location that he can open. In the end, as a customer I would ask the store, what kind of measures have you taken to protect my information from being stolen. Many stores have already started taking measures to combat skimmers.”
The NC Department of Agriculture cannot force a store to secure their pumps or upgrade to new technology. It is up to each individuals store to take action to protect their customers, Parker said.
NCDA inspectors are currently doing their sweep of Johnston County stores and Parker hopes no additional skimming devices are located.
Smithfield Police are still investigating the Feb. 3rd incident at the Star Market. The device was found on pump number 4. If you used that particular pump, police want you to closely monitor your financial card statements. If you have been a victim of financial card fraud, report it to Smithfield Police at 919-934-2121.
Parker said skimmer devices were found at the Star Market in March and October 2019. Devices were found at DY Express in Selma two separate times in March 2019, and again in May and September 2019.